Professor, linguist and activist Noam Chomsky is among more than 100 academics from 19 countries who have signed a letter demanding Spain release Catalan political prisoners and calling on the European Union to "stop this repression."
"Over the past two weeks, we have seen a further escalation in the use of criminal charges and arrests continue to be used by Spain against its political opponents. There is no doubt that we are living the darkest days of Spanish democracy since 1978 (when the Spanish Constitution was written after the death of dictator Ferderico Franco)," the professors of social studies and humanities wrote.
The letter was written in reference to Carles Puigdemont, former leader of the Catalan government; five elected officials who have been jailed, including Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Raul Romeva, Dolors Bassa and Carme Forcadell, and seven more exiled under threat of imprisonment.
Pro-independence leaders in Catalonia were tried and sentenced for rebellion and embezzlement for organizing an independence referendum. After the referendum, Catalonia issues a formal declaration of independence.
Madrid responded by dissolving Catalonia's regional parliament and calling for new elections, which were won by pro-independence parties.
The public letter also highlighted E.U. complicity, warning that political repression in Spain is a threat to European democracy.
"Those in exile are being hounded by European arrest warrants issued under the auspices of the European Union. We write to demand their immediate release, and to demand immediate action from the European Union to stop this repression, which represents an indelible and permanent stain on European democracy," the letter reads.
Since the arrests, thousands of Catalans have organized protests and roadblocks to demand the release of their elected leaders.
Political leaders are not the only ones targeted by Spain. Several artists, including rappers Valtonyc and Pablo Hasel, were recently jailed for writing lyrics against the Spanish monarchs, Franco's legacy, and two protesters were convicted for burning an image of the king.